Kokon To Zai, the clothing company notorious for showcasing a design earlier this year that bore an uncanny resemblance to a Bethany Yellowtail (Crow) creation, has been nailed again for allegedly ripping off a sacred Inuit design.
The company, known as KTZ, removed the item from its apparel line and apologized to the great-granddaughter of the original designer, but she is still considering legal action.
“We’re going to get legal advice about our options,” said Salome Awa, Inuit, about the appropriation of a sacred parka by KTZ, a British firm. “There should be an international law protecting Indian garments, they’re sacred.”
Awa, a radio and TV producer of Inuktitut language programs for CBC, first learned about the unauthorized use of the family’s sacred parka design in early November. She recognized it with a shock as a replica of the parka designed by her ancestor, a shaman, for spiritual protection.
“My first reaction was, oh my God, that’s my great-grandfather’s sacred parka design,” Awa told Indian Country Today Media Network. “They can’t use that, it’s a sacred shaman parka that no one else should use.”
Awa also issued a media release saying that the duplication couldn’t possibly be accidental or coincidental.
“This is a stolen piece,” Awa said. “There is no way that this fashion designer could have thought of this exact duplicate by himself.”
Not long after discovering the theft, she wrote to KTZ, then shared the story with numerous Canadian and British media outlets. Complaints poured in to KTZ from people objecting to the use of the design. By November 25, Awa’s story had gone viral in Canada and Great Britain. Shortly thereafter the company sent a letter of apology to Awa.
“The piece in question was released (January 2015), and the Inuit community was credited in our press release,” KTZ said in the letter. “We sincerely apologize to you and anyone who felt offended by our work, as it certainly was not our intention.”
However, Awa noted that the company did not answer several questions that she had sent, including how the company came to know about the design.
“They provide no explanation of that nature,” she said. “I had asked them how they obtained it; why are they using it; and did they know what it means.”
Awa said that KTZ made no mention of monetary reimbursement or an apology, either. The KTZ garment was selling for $925 Canadian before it was pulled from the shelves. As of press time KTZ had not responded to Awa’s other questions.